Vegetation, plant communities, and ecosystems play a crucial role in engineering projects, as they can adapt to environmental changes, such as climate change and sea level rise. Plants act as keystone species, providing reinforcement, stability, and wave attenuation, while also creating ecosystems and promoting sediment accretion. This results in cost savings and various ecological, economic, and engineering benefits.

Planted Infrastructure

Our goal is to assist practitioners (managers, engineers, scientists, architects, builders, land owners, etc.) incorporate desirable native vegetation into engineering projects, through customized design at various stages throughout the lifespan of a project. We apply functional designs into engineering project from planning, design, operation, maintenance, and post-operational phases. In addition we utilize real life projects to demonstrate the use of natural features in engineering and construction projects across many ecosystems (wetlands, dunes, beaches, uplands, riparian, etc.)

Application In Dredge Material Placement Areas

Dredged Material Placement Areas (DMPAs) are created to manage dredged materials. Most DMPAs lack prescribed planting plans and currently face structural and ecological challenges such as dyke failure, invasive plant species colonization, dust outbreak, etc. The objective of our research project is to provide guidance to managers and engineers to incorporate planting regimes into management practices in DMPAs.

Plant communities not only survive, but also adapt to changing environmental conditions as they go into natural succession. The premise of our research is that plants can be used as engineering materials, and should be incorporated into engineering projects for optimal performance while maximizing economic and environmental benefits. Guidance developed through this research will identify and document the use of native plants which provide sustainable solutions to DMPAs and Confined Disposal Facilities through strategic planning, placement, management, and eventual transition following closures. ERDC is collaborating with Districts to assist with formulating planting treatments through EWN Workshops, to demonstrate the use of vegetation and nature based features. Overall, this project will provide resilient and cost effective solutions, serving environmental and engineering functions in DMPAs nationwide. Application of this work is being expanded to other areas such as parks, reservoirs, public, and private lands.

EWN Podcast

Imagine if we could use plants to help solve complex engineering problems while enhancing natural ecosystems. And what if we could use plants—and the process of planting—to restore damaged ecosystems and, in the process, build community resilience? Our guests are doing just that and a lot more!


Dr. Tosin Sekoni, research ecologist at ERDC and the USACE Philadelphia District conducted a field-based, Engineering With Nature workshop that taught new techniques in living shoreline establishment practices. BOT...
Summary: On March 13-16, 2017, the US Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) Engineer, Research and Development Center (ERDC) and Galveston District (SWG) conducted a field-based, Engineering with Nature (EWN) wo...

Additional Resources